New Delhi: The report of the committee as part of the In-house Procedure is not liable to the made public said Supreme Court Secretary General while announcing a clean chit to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi pronounced by the three-member in-house committee that probed the allegations of sexual harassment made against him.
“Please take note that in case of Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India & Anr. (2003) 5 SCC 494, it has been held that the Report of a Committee constituted as a part of the In-House Procedure is not liable to be made public,” the court said.
Senior advocate Indira Jaisingh promptly responded to the said order on a Twitter post with hashtag #NotInMyName, where she said: “This is a scandal. Indira Jaising v Supreme Court of India was also a case of sexual harassment by a sitting High Court of Karnataka. It is a pre-RTI case and is bad in law. Demand the disclosure of the findings of the enquiry committee in public interest.”
The 2003 SC order being referred to here was a verdict passed by the two-judge bench of Justices S Rajendra Babu and G P Mathur where in the Court had rejected a PIL filed by Jaising who had then demanded making the final report of a three-judge committee public after the committee had inquired into complaints which allegedly involved three sitting judges of the Karnataka High Court.
The SC bench had then observed that an in-house inquiry conducted to probe complaints filed against the Chief Justice or judges of the High Court “is for the purpose of his (Chief Justice of India) own information and satisfaction” and a “report made on such inquiry if given publicity will only lead to more harm than good to the institution as Judges would prefer to face inquiry leading to impeachment”.
“It is not appropriate for the petitioner to approach this Court for the relief or direction for release of the Report, for what the Chief Justice of India has done is only to get information from peer Judges of those who are accused and the report made to the Chief Justice of India is wholly confidential,” the bench had said.
The inquiry report is “only for the purpose of satisfaction” of the CJI and that the “If the Chief Justice of India is satisfied that no further action is called for in the matter, the proceeding is closed. If any further action is to be taken as indicated in the In-House procedure itself, the Chief Justice of India may take such further steps as he deems fit,” the bench held.
The case related to the February 2, 2003 clean chit given by a ‘high level judicial inquiry committee’ comprising the then Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Justice C K Thakkar, the then Chief Justice of Kerala High Court Justice J L Gupta and then judge of Orissa High Court Justice A K Patnaik.
Jaising had moved the SC to make the report public after enquiry committee set up by then Chief Justice of India G B Pattanaik on the alleged involvement of judges in the scandal had submitted the final report to the then CJI V N Khare.
Back then replying to Jaising the apex court had said that while a “in a democratic framework free flow of information to the citizens is necessary for proper functioning”, the “right to information is not absolute.”
“There are several areas where such information need not be furnished. Even the Freedom of Information Act, 2002, to which also reference has been made by the learned counsel of the petitioner, does not say in absolute terms that information gathered at any level in any manner for any purpose shall be disclosed to the public. The inquiry ordered and the report made to the Chief Justice of India being confidential and discreet is only for the purpose of his information and not for the purpose of disclosure to any other person,” the court had said in its 2003 Judgement.